Cathedral Trustee Named Volunteer of the Month

Cathedral Trustee, Betsy Rowekamp, was named Volunteer of the Month by the Winona Daily News.  Betsy is a member of the Social Justice and Welcome Committees as well as one of our parish trustees. We congratulate Betsy, and her husband Dave, for their honor!

Betsy Rowekamp helped found the Winona Area Catholic Schools Foundation and volunteers at a number of organizations around Winona. She plans to retire from Winona Health this month.

Many people look their whole lives to find something to get behind, something to get passionate about.
Betsy Rowekamp never really had to worry about that -- she found a passion for volunteering a long time ago.
Rowekamp, 67, said that while she enjoys volunteering, it really should be seen as an individual responsibility.
“Each of us has an obligation,” she said. “It takes a real effort to look outside ourselves. I’m no great person for (volunteering).”

Others would big to differ about her modesty.

Over the years, her volunteering ventures have included: helping found the Winona Area Catholic Schools Foundation nearly 30 years ago, serving on Cathedral of the Sacred Heart’s welcoming committee, lending a hand at the Winona Let’s Go Fishing chapter trips on the Mississippi River, and sitting on the Winona County Citizen Review Panel to help improve child protection.

That, and working in Tanzania once and Guatemala five times (with a sixth trip in the works) on mission trips, journeys that led her and her husband, Dave, to be honored Friday at Winona Health's Benevolence and Blues event.That list, in addition to working in behavioral health at Winona Health, paints a vivid picture of what Rowekamp calls "the human obligation" to give back.

The obligation and dedication to volunteering was instilled in her as a child in Chicago, where her father worked in local politics and her mother worked in the school system. Her father worked as a precinct captain, where Rowekamp discovered the importance of helping people and giving back.

Really, ever since, Rowekamp hasn’t stopped working and volunteering. Even while her own children were in school, she was on the team that created the Catholic Schools Foundation of Winona with Father Paul Nelson in 1986. In its first year, the foundation raised more $1 million and is still growing strong today, though Rowekamp is no longer associated with the fund. Rowekamp said the foundation is something she's very proud of because of its stability.

Soon after she left the foundation committee, Rowekamp went back to work in behavioral health at Winona Health, where she works today.

Because of her and her husband’s background in health care, they took it upon themselves to aid those less fortunate – those without access to the treatments the couple is capable of providing. Their mission has taken them to Tanzania and Guatemala, trips Rowekamp calls her most rewarding work.

“The people there are tremendously grateful and patient,” Rowekamp said. “You’re improving your life by doing it.”

While in Guatemala, Rowekamp assists her physician husband, who operates on about 40 people during a five-day stay. The couple makes the trip in the company of fellow doctors through no formal organization; it’s just something they love to do.

“It becomes fun,” Rowekamp said. “You love the group you’re with. We love helping these people. We have a great time.”

The long days in surgery don’t seem to drain her will to help -- the couple will make their sixth trip to Guatemala this year.

Looking ahead, Rowekamp intends to keep her nursing license when she retires in mid-February, so she’ll have the ability to continue accompanying her husband in operating rooms during their return trips to Guatemala.

Retirement only means the opportunity to take on more volunteering projects for Rowekamp. While she will no longer be employed at Winona Health, she intends to continue her work in behavioral health, specifically with those dealing with mental illness.

“I get a lot back from the people I work with,” she said. “Not everyone has to be geared to go to Guatemala, but it’s important to just give back.”

Click here for the original article on the Winona Daily News Website